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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Make] Projects 

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build, hack, tweak, share, discover, ■ 

Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Written By: Angela Sheehan 



• Needled) 



Needlenose pliers (1) 


Thread (1) 

Scissors (1) 


Fabric (1) 

Sewing machine (1) 

decorative outer fabric: optional 

i • 

Conductive thread (1) 


Conductive velcro (1) 
option A 

■ • 

Purse snap (1) 
option B 


Sew-on snaps (1) 
option C 


Coin cell battery holder (1) 

! • 

Coin cell battery (1) 


! • 




Do you like crafting or sewing? Do you love LEDs? Well, why not combine your passions 
with this "wire-free" LED bracelet! 

© Make Projects 

Page 1 of 10 

Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Have a little fun with conductive thread and "sewing" circuits and make a cool battery- 
powered LED cuff to wear out and about. It is only powered while you are wearing it because 
the fastener acts as a switch. No soldering/wiring required! 

Many of the techniques shown in this tutorial were inspired by projects and materials links 
from Leah Buechley's E-Textile and DIY electronics research. 

Step 1 — Gather materials and cut fabrics 


• Decide if you want to use conductive Velcro, magnetic purse snaps, or sewing 
snaps for your closure. 

• Cut out a rectangle of each of your fabrics, felt for the lining and another fabric (or more 
felt) for your top layer. A 9" long strip makes a good cuff for average wrists. Try it out 
around your wrist to get a good length, and don't forget to leave some room for it to overlap 
when you attach your fastener (an inch or so will work). 

• Use your sewing machine to hem any edges on your fabric if it looks like it will fray and 
make sure your fabric and felt strips are the same width. 

• If you will be making a lot of bracelets, create a template out of cardboard that you 
can trace. 


© Make Projects 

Page 2 of 10 

Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 2 — Sew power lines 

loose end for 
handsewing ^—^ 

felt (top view) 


{ m a I e ) 

— — = sewing thread 

= conductive thread (on bobbin of sewing machine) 



^ -% 

loose end for 

• Draw out two parallel lines on your 
felt. Stagger them a bit so there is 
an inch of space at each end that is 
not above/below the other. These 
will be your power and ground lines 
from the battery. 

• With your sewing machine, wind a 
bobbin of conductive thread to use. 
Then with regular thread on the top 
and a conductive thread bobbin, 
sew along your lines. Leave 
enough conductive thread at either 
end for hand sewing, and trim the 
regular thread off. 

• You can also follow all of 
the sewing steps using 
ordinary hand-sewing techniques. 


© Make Projects 

Page 3 of 10 

Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 3 — Attach your fastener 

© Make Projects Page 4 of 1 

Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

)ption B: 

Purse Snap {back) 

Option C: 

Sew-On Snap (back) 

• Lay the felt out on a table with the 
conductive thread facing down. 
Using the extra thread on the right 
end of the felt strip, sew on your 
choice of fastener. 

For Velcro, cut a small strip of 
conductive Velcro and position 
underneath the end of the felt (as 
shown) and hand-sew. You can 
also sew the Velcro on when you 
are sewing the power lines (it is a 
bit tough to pin through, but will 
work in the machine). Make sure 
you loop a few times so that the 
thread and Velcro have a secure 
connection (for power purposes). 

For purse snaps, cut two small 
holes and push the "male" snap 
through. Slide the metal backing 
over the prongs. Use your 
conductive thread and loop a few 
times through the backing before 
you bend the prongs down 
(otherwise it will be hard to get the 
needle through if you bend first). 
As with the Velcro, make sure you 
have a strong connection. 

For sew-on snaps, position as with 
the Velcro and sew on with the 
conductive thread end. Make sure 
to loop two or three times through 
each hole in the snap to both hold it 
on and make a good connection. 

© Make Projects 

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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 4 — Sew fabrics together 

• Now that you've got the basic 
"wiring" sewn, it is time to attach 
the top and bottom layers together. 
Line them up so that the fastener is 
facing down and the "top" of the top 
fabric is also facing down. 

• Stitch the end opposite the fastener 
to your top layer (the end with the 
extra thread should be closest to 
the seam). 

• At this point you can also 
mark your "power" line with 
a pen or marker (it is the one 
attached to your fastener; in these 
pictures it is the top line). 

© Make Projects 

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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 5 — Attach the other fastener and battery holder 

• Flip the fabrics so that they are facing each other (fastener facing out) and try it on - 
marking where you want the other fastener to be. 

• Lay your bracelet out with the seam down and the top fabric on the right. Cut a length of 
conductive thread and sew your fastener to the top layer where you marked. Then sew a 
line along the top (about 1/4 inch) and sew through the top (+) loop of your battery holder. 

• Once the battery holder and fastener are secured, flip the felt so that it is under the top 
fabric. Then take the extra conductive thread you left on the felt and thread it on a needle, 
pulling it through the top fabric and the bottom battery holder hole. Make sure to loop a few 
times through both layers of fabric to secure to the holder. 

© Make Projects 

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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 6 — Ready your LEDs 




• Using your pliers, take an LED and bend the leads so that they are at a 90-degree angle - 
this will help the LED to lay flat against your fabric. Bend the leads so that they are facing 
opposite each other. 

• Then grab a hold on the end of one lead and twist into a small loop. Spiral it around until 
you are almost all the way to the bulb (leave a little room at about the dent in the lead). 

• Do this to both sides until you have what looks like a bead-type-object. You will be using 
the loops to sew the LED onto your fabric. 

• You can mark the "power" lead with a small dab of nail polish or paint to make it 
easier to identify which loop to sew to the power line. To help you identify which 
lead is power and which is ground: the anode (power or +) is the longer of the two and the 
cathode (ground or -) is the shorter and is on the side of the LED that is flattened (when 
viewing from above). 

© Make Projects 

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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 7 — Attach the LEDs 

~ 1 


^ m 


• Gather up your LED-beads and lay them out between your sewn lines (the power ends 
facing the power line). Take a bit of conductive thread and sew each end of the LED loops 
to each "power" and "ground" line (making sure not to let any of the thread cross between 
the two LED loops and short-circuit your bracelet). Trim all the ends of the thread as close 
as you can to the knots. 

• When you are done sewing, use your scissors to cut holes for the LEDs to poke through 
your top fabric. Once the LEDs are placed to your liking, put your battery in the battery 
holder, connect the fasteners, and test it out! If all is well, sew the top fabric to the bottom 

• And you are done! Wear your bracelet out and about and have fun. There are a ton of 
different variations you can make on the pattern, so experiment with different styles of 
fabrics and LEDs and maybe even make one to match your outfit... 

© Make Projects 

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Soft-Circuit LED Bracelet 

Step 8 — Troubleshooting 

• Some troubleshooting tips if things 
aren't lighting up: Check the battery 
to see if it is dead. 

• Check your sewn connections to 
the LEDs to be sure you are 
making good contact with the 
power/ground lines to the LED 

• Check each LED to see if it is burnt 
out using alligator clips attaching 
the leads to a battery. 

Related posts: 

How-To: Make a Soft-Circuit LED bracelet 

How-To: Make and Use Conductive Glue and Thread 

http://blog.makezine.eom/archive/2007/1 2. .. 

This document was last generated on 201 2-1 1 -02 1 1 :1 6:1 4 PM. 

© Make Projects 

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